Category Archives: Working

eugene oregon writer

Weekly writing update – Oct. 13, 2017: Progress is progress

Well, I got stuff done this past week. Was it enough? Who knows. It was something, though, and that really is better than nothing.

I always want to do more than is reasonable to accomplish. Sometimes I can. And other times I have to settle for mere-human amounts of productivity. Given that I’ve published five books in the last 17 months, while working part-time and building an intuitive mediumship business, I should probably give myself a break.

Here’s this week’s writing update video:

Writing accomplishments

  • I finished the first draft of Signs from Spirit, which felt really good. It’s not super long. about 3,500 words and 12 pages. It’ll be my “mailing list magnet” – the thing I offer to readers as an incentive to sign up for my Alight Intuition mailing list (other than the obvious pleasure of hearing from me once a month).
  • I did the first interview for Led by Light, Book 3, with Ker Cleary from BlueStar Channeling. We had a nice long chat about all things related to starting and running your own woo-woo practice (she does channeling work, as you might be able to tell from her business name) and I took copious notes. Over the next few months, I plan to interview at least a dozen or so people in fields similar to mine, such as channelers, mediums, medical intuitives, etc., to get a good understanding of the issues people face when moving into professional practice in this work.
  • I fiddled with ad keywords for Led by Light, Book 2 on Amazon advertising. My ad was approved, as expected, and so I added a bunch of keywords. I checked on it today and it seems to be performing well, resulting in at least a handful of sales at a fairly low cost.
  • I researched print book pricing and decided I don’t need to bother about changing things. When I first started publishing, I priced all my books $x.99. Then, right before publishing Led by Light, Book 2, I noticed that a lot of print books are priced $x.95. Worried I’d been doing it wrong all along, I priced Led by Light, Book 2, $17.95, and thought I’d need to change the rest of my book to that pricing structure.
    After poking around on the interwebs and looking at my whole library of mind-body-spirit books, I realized there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason for the pricing and I’m going to leave it how it is and not worry about it. While there is a certain part of me that wants everything lined up just so, I don’t think there’s any real payoff for changing things at this point.
  • I gave up on kindle coloring book idea (thanks, Amazon). Amazon rejected my coloring book in kindle format. When I wrote to them explaining how the coloring book can be used solely as an ebook, they decided to stick with their previous decision (of rejection). And I decided not to fight it and give up on the idea. Coloring books seem to be mostly dead at this point and, while I like my coloring book, I’m not sure it’s worth the energy of promoting it if it’s something that’s just not selling in the marketplace.
    I’d been toying with the idea of turning my Spiritual Symbols Dictionary into an ebook also, but I don’t think I’ll bother. It’ll be a lot of work on the back end to make it format well as an EPUB and MOBI file and, while you can add notes to an ebook, I think it’d be confusing and the benefit of being able to run Amazon ads on it isn’t really worth it. Especially if Amazon will reject it, too.
    Maybe I’ll revisit it at a later date, but I’m going to drop it for now.
  • I looked into recording meditations to go along with Led by Light books. One of my students who’s reading Led by Light, Book 2, told me she can hear me talking in her head, narrating the book as she reads it. And that she’d love a chakra opening meditation to go along with the book.
    I know I’ve recorded meditations during classes (I conveniently use my own book as reading/learning material in my mediumship classes), but I haven’t pulled them out of the overall class recording, nor will the quality be that great.
    But recording them fresh and doing it professionally shouldn’t be too hard. So I pondered that a bit this week and pulled out all the content from my two books that could be turned into recorded meditations.
    However, this isn’t on my priority list right now, and I need to be careful where I put my energy and not ignore some of the practical business-y things I need to do in favor of things that take my fancy, while also doing the work I have the energy and passion to do. It’s a balance and a dance.

This seems like a decently impressive amount of work for one week, especially given that kids didn’t have school yesterday or today and I’ve been a bit under the weather with whatever germs the darling monkeys have shared with me. Plus I’ve been dealing with various non-work stress (writing a personal injury demand letter from an accident I was in 18 months ago, getting one kid set up with a 504 plan at school to support his success while he deals with ADHD and anxiety, trying to convince my husband that we really should get a dog, and the usual fullness of life with kids and other people).

So, yay me! I celebrate me.

Writing plans for the week

  • Edit Signs from Spirit and figure out how to make it look pretty. I don’t think Signs from Spirit needs rounds and rounds of editing. But it needs some, and I’d also like to make it look pretty. It looks like the inside of a book right now, rather than a pretty PDF.
  • Get Facebook ads set up for various books and get over my terror of them. I don’t know why it feels hard and scary to set up ads for my books on Facebook. I’m worried I’ll do it wrong somehow. But I know I can start small and figure it out as I go. I’m just a bit chicken about it and so I’ve been putting it off (and doing things like pondering making meditation CDs). So I need to just move through my uncertainty, figure out what it is that I feel stuck on and try some things.
  • Fix the typos in the Symbol Dictionary Workbook and Led by Light, Book 2 formatting errors. I taught Spoon Bending at my recent mediumship development circle on Wednesday and immediately caught a formatting error: the chapter started on the verso (left) side of the page rather than the recto (right) side. (FYI, I just had to look up which one was which as I wanted to use the proper terminology and also use it correctly.) Oops! Fortunately, it was only that chapter and the Appendix. I’m not sure how that slipped by me as I knew it was an issue when I was formatting the book for print and thought I’d found and fixed all of them. *le sigh* So I’ve fixed it, along with a typo in the Spiritual Symbols Workbook and need to upload the fixed files to Create Space and Ingram Spark. I dislike these fiddly bits.
  • Set up more interview for Led by Light, Book 3. I’d love to do one a week and keep moving forward with the research for this book, so I can begin writing it next year and publish it by next summer/fall. But that means organizing myself and reaching out to people. I do enjoy getting to know people and networking with my woo-woo community. It makes us all stronger and gives me people I can refer to as needed, which is great.
writing update 10-6-17

Weekly writing update – Oct. 6, 2017: picking myself up after a fall

Since July, I’ve been making (almost) weekly videos about what’s going on in my writing life. I have no idea why I decided to do this. I think to keep me honest and give me accountability.

Every week, I tell the world (or whoever’s willing to watch) what I have and haven’t done. I like talking, so this is fairly easy for me. Easier than figuring out what to write about on this blog, apparently.

Today, it occurred to me to write a quick blog post to go along with the video where I can link to resources or explain things in a way I can’t do in a few minutes of video. I’m trying to keep them under 5 minutes, so I can’t ramble on too much.

Demystifying independent publishing

There’s another aspect of why I want to do this. I want to demystify writing and publishing. Right now, I’m independently publishing my books, mostly non-fiction about mediumship development. I’ve been doing this since summer 2016 and have learned a lot. And there’s still a lot to learn. I want to share that knowledge with other people, as well as the frustration and triumphs. This is a lonely road to walk alone. We’re better off on it together.

I also have every intention of finding a literary agent whose a great fit with me and signing a fabulous deal with a traditional publisher at some point. I want to demystify that process, too. I think we need more openness in writing and publishing.

I realize this isn’t going to appeal to a lot of folks. And that’s OK. If you want to read about actual mediumship development, hop over to my other website, Alight Intuition, which has that information and videos about mediumship, intuition, meditation and all things woo-woo. I’m all about helping people trust themselves and their connection with Spirit over there. 🙂

This site is about me as a writer and helping other writers.

Actual writing accomplishments

Therefore, here are this past week’s writing accomplishments:

  • I went to the mid-valley Willamette Writer’s monthly meeting last night where Roseanne Parry talked about navigating the retail side of the book business, i.e. getting your book into bookstores.  It was useful and affirming in that I’m already doing some of the right things (yay!), like having IngramSpark as a POD distributor for my books (in addition to Create Space for Amazon).
  • I worked on a new ebook called Signs from Spirit: How to know if what you’re experiencing is real, or if you’ve just gone off your rocker. When it’s finished, it’ll be the giveaway I use when people join my Alight Intuition mailing list. Currently, they get a few pages of my coloring book as a PDF that they can print, which is kinda lame. I don’t think anyone is joining my list for the giveaway. But I’d like to grow my mailing list to people beyond clients, students and people who attend my events.
  • I started setting up interviews (OK, just one) for my next book in the Led by Light mediumship development series. That book will be about becoming a practicing medium or intuitive and I want to talk to current practitioners to get their take on what they wished they knew or were glad they knew when they first started out. I know what my experience was like, but I want to get feedback from others in the same and similar professions to make sure that I’m touching on the right information for new practitioners. Working with Spirit (and people) is great and wonderful — and there are pitfalls and bumpy bits.
  • I got some fiddly bits done: I finally fixed an embarrassing typo in my Intuitive Symbols Coloring book. (I spelled meditative coloring mediative coloring.) It turns out I do that all the time. And mediative is a word, so spell check didn’t catch it.
  • I’m also working on turning the coloring book into an ebook. This was suggested to me at one of the sessions I attended at the Willamette Writer’s annual conference in August. I’m not sure if it’s going to actually work, but I’m giving it a try. Having it as an ebook will allow me to run ads for it on Amazon, which I can’t if it’s not available on kindle. So we’ll see.
  • I got advertising set up on Amazon for Led by Light, book 2. It’s a cost-effective way to sell more books, or at least it has been for book 1. Once the ad is approved, I need to add and fiddle with keywords.

Writing plans for the next week

  • I have potentially more fiddling to do – around book pricing this time. When I first priced my books, I made everything $x.99, both ebook and print. But then I realized a lot of print books are $x.95 and ebooks are $x.99. So I made Led by Light, book 2, $17.95 in print. Which makes me want to change Led by Light, book 1 to $11.95 (rather than $11.99) and the Spiritual Symbols Workbook to $19.95 (rather than $19.99).
    I need to do some more research on this before I both with changing the price associated with the ISBN, getting a new barcode, changing the cover file, uploading the new cover to IngramSpark and Create Space, changing the price in both Ingram and Create Space. (I’m tired just writing about it.)
  • I also need to fix a typo in the Spiritual Symbols Workbook. I spelled an author’s name wrong in my acknowledgments/resources section. She pointed it out to me. Ouch!
  • I want to finish getting advertising set up for Led by Light book 2 on Amazon and also try out some advertising on Facebook.
  • I want to finish the first draft of the Signs from Spirit ebook. I don’t (or didn’t) expect it to be very long, so in theory it shouldn’t take me long. But…that’s what I said about Led by Light, book 2, and that turned out to be almost 400 pages.

The video

If you prefer to get this info in video, here’s the video. 🙂 Enjoy.

Flying sick and the importance of breathing

I knew, finally sitting on our long flight across the country, shivering and shaking under our pile of coats, that I’d face repercussions for this. I didn’t know what else to do, other than fly home sick with the kids. But I knew it wasn’t going to just be OK.

“This isn’t terrible,” I tell myself. “This isn’t pleasant. But it’s not horrible. It’s uncomfortable, that’s all.” Shivering, unable to get warm, kids watching movies on either side of me.

In San Francisco we wait endlessly in the stifling plane to slowly file out. “Excuse me, can we squeeze by? Our connection leaves in 5 minutes,” fell on ears so reluctant they were deaf. One person moved. The next? “Where do you want me to go?” So we wait. Anxiously. Silently. Kids still half-full of sleep.

Released from the plan, we run to our next gate. The kids great sports, running even though they’d just been sleeping minutes before. Berry’s back pack half unzipped, opening further with each step. A cup falls out. I stop to pick it up. Down a moving sidewalk. Turning right down a new hall. Endless numbers to gallop past, chest bursting, body just not able to keep going. But we keep going, the kids making it first to gate 79, squeaking in just in time.

In Eugene, my feet drag toward the baggage claim. I can’t make them move any faster even though my brain says I should be able to. One step, then another. I know, then, I’ve reached my body’s limits. At some point it will simply stop and fall to the floor. And yet we aren’t done. The suitcases on the baggage carousel, wet and heavy. I drag them off and we head out but I can’t pull them both. Too heavy for Duncan. Pull one, push the other, out to the mini-van, heave them inside. Then home to my blissful bed.

That first night is so sweet, asleep in clean soft sheets, against my husband. For a little while, at least, until my coughing ousts him from the bed.

The next days blur. The kids are up in the morning, so he takes them to school. I insist they go, even though Duncan wants to sleep more. But they had to go. I pick them up in my PJs, hanging onto the steering wheel, willing them to see me. The next day, my mother-in-law gets them. And by the next, I’m at Urgent Care. Five days of 101+F fever. It’s time.

Taking my temperature. Elevated, but only 99.something. Coughing through the mask Adam puts on me upsidedown as we came through the door. The nurse practitioner gets the basic story. Sick since Sunday. Fever. Flying on Tuesday.

“Did you wear a mask?” she asked.

I shook my head. “I didn’t have one. And they may have not let me on the plane.” I’d felt bad at the time, but then I listened and heard coughing and sneezing all around me. It hadn’t occured to me a mask might have protected me from other germs.

“It’s everywhere,” she said.

She asks questions about onset – sudden or gradual. Then, “Breathe. Deeply.” I couldn’t. I try and come out gasping, coughing, unable to get more air in.

Does anyone else cry when their body stops working properly? Or when people ask too many questions that are too hard to answer? Well, I do. And it was too much, all the waiting to find out what was happening, the probing and performing. Plus, I couldn’t breathe and that freaks me out.

“What’s going on?” she asks. Like I can say.

I hold up a finger. “I need a minute,” I whisper. Through the mask. She couldn’t hear. So I cried and held my breath, trying to calm it, letting it through in wisps rather than gasps.

“I need a minute,” I try again. Just a minute to myself, in my head, to calm down, to get control of this rebelling body. That’s all.

I explain what happened, where it hurt, how I couldn’t breathe and was scared, just needed time to calm down and be OK.

She frowns at me.

“Does she usually get like this?” she asks my husband.

I don’t know what he says. I breathe. Just breathing was all I needed to do. And not cry. Wiping my eyes and nose on tissues and the sleeves of my gown. Unable to actually look at anyone full in the face or it might start all over again.

“I’m going to order a nebulizer treatment right now and see if that helps,” she says, eyes still scowling. “Then I want a chest x-ray. I want to make sure I’m not missing anything.” She leaves us in the room together.

A nurse with nebulizer and tank enters, delivering them with brief instructions. Breathe deep, even if it makes you cough. And it does. The coughing is awful. But I suck it in through tears, willing it to reach into my lungs and calm the creaking of my exhales.

Later, the xray. Chest against the plate. Deep breath. Hold it. Release. Coughing and crying. Why is it so awful to cough, propped up on medical equipment in a hospital gown?

“How long have you felt unwell?” the tech asks.

“Since Sunday.”

“That’s not fair,” she says. “Your hair looks great. And you sound so bad.”

I did shower today, I think. This is how my hair usually looks after a shower.

She takes pity on me and manuevers me into a wheelchair to roll back to the exam room. I curl up on the bed with my fantastic-looking hair, wanting to be back home.

The nurse practitioner hands me my x-rays as she glides in the room along with some words about a cluster of spirocites in my right lobe. In other words, pneumonia.

“I thought you’d tell her she had a virus and to go home and rest,” says my husband, looking pleased.

The last time I looked at a chest x-ray, it was my mum’s. Her lungs were full of cancer-laden cotton balls. Mine just have some unwanted beasties hanging out that we can kill off. But still. Three weeks after I saw inside her lungs they took their last breaths,

“Do you have any allergies?” she asks.

I manage to successfully list my ever-growing antibiotic allergy collection.

“Azithromycin,” she says. I nod. I know that one. And OK. “5 days, Take 2 pills today, then one a day for 4 days. Plus an albuterol inhaler. Use it if you start wheezing. Lots of rest, and fluids.”

I’d seen the consideration in her eyes, whether to send me home or to the hospital. But we were dismissed to home, weaving our way to the car, to the couch, to bed. Kids come home from school with Grandma Sue.

“Hey, have you seen these pictures of inside your mom’s body?” Adam asks the kids, making light of it all. Later he tells me, “Take it easy, OK. You’ve got an illness people sometimes die from.”

The weekend commenced. I’m not sure what happened.

Days pass and I measure progress in small victories. On Monday I manage to get dressed for the first time in days. On Tuesday I get kids from school. Wednesday I drop them off in the morning — a bad idea, I learn, as I stop to rest on the way back to the car, gathering an unintended crowd of concerned parental friends.

Client work piles up and I tackle it in small bites, resting in between short sessions or working from bed. It’s one of the benefits of self-employment, considering there’s no paid sick leave.

My cough continues, reminding me with each sudden, explosive exhalation that I’ve given birth to two children and perhaps I should have paid more attention to doing my kegels after all. I’m going to need to buy more pantiliners soon, but there aren’t any local grocery stores that deliver. I checked one night when we ran low on essentials, before the husband headed out into the night.

I dislike being a pale imiation of myself, wan and weak, unable to run a household and feed a horde. But I know I can’t will energy into myself, any more than I could two decades ago when I first fell ill with Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfuction Syndrome and Fibromyalgia (I like to use the longer name, as it sounds more important than simple tiredness).

A friend posts an inspirational photo saying on Facebook. Something about acceptance. Ah, yes, acceptance. Sometimes what is just is and we get to deal with it, no matter how we may personally feel about the whole thing. So I remain at rest, lying down in between episodes of 30 Rock on Netflix and bouts of working. Perhaps when I get really dizzy and tired, I think, my body is trying to tell me to lie down.

My book sits resting, in the middle of editing, two chapters in the process of being combined into one and fleshed out with vivid memories brought back by my trip to my regular old bar in Rochester, of all places. Rochester in winter is nothing like the Caribbean, but still echoes of similar experiences ring forth. Small things trigger memories.

All I can really do is breathe. And listen to my lungs crackle as the last of this illness releases itself from my body.

 

One year later

A year ago I left my full-time job — the thing I thought was my career. It was creative and rewarding, fast-paced and demanding. I was part of something bigger than myself, working for a non-profit and getting paid pretty decently.

I’d been promoted twice in as many years, taken on increasing responsibility and a heavier workload with gusto and a can-do smile. I got teams of people to work together for a common cause, created efficiencies in workflow and cost-effectiveness. Last spring I felt I’d found my groove. I felt competent and confident.

And then the organization was reorganized. And I was let go.

I wasn’t sure what I was going to find when I found my resting position. A year later, I’m still not entirely. But I can breathe easier knowing I’m headed in the right direction.

Bye-bye old life

Being laid off is hard. Even when you know that it’s truly not about you. It’s about people putting workers and managers into boxes on an organizational chart and making the decisions they think make the most sense at the time.

“But if I was really that awesome, they’d have made accommodation for me!” the little voice says whines.

I thought I was irreplaceable. That they couldn’t do without me.

A new life

In any case, it happened. My last day came and went, I turned in my badge, carried out my boxes and locked my office door for the last time. A week or so later, we went on holiday to England and France (nice timing, universe, thanks! :)). Then I dropped the kids off at their Dad’s for a few weeks and returned home to a quiet house that I’d longed to spend more time in during the non-stop rush of my previous life.

In the last year, I’ve had many hours alone in this quiet house. A few that have been too quiet. But not many.

It turns out I like having time to think. Time to form long thoughts, taking me from tiny beginning to quiet conclusion. Time to allow deep thoughts that don’t do well when jarred back into the surface of life by the clarion call of a child.

And these thoughts…it’s interesting where they’re taking me.

A new idea

I began my new career with the idea I’d start my own business, providing strategic marketing communication services to non-profit organizations. I’d help them make more money so they could do more good in the world. But then I realized I don’t really want to work only with non-profits, for a variety of reasons (that I won’t elaborate on at the moment). I couldn’t quite get enough umph and zest behind the business to make a great go of it. I talked to my counselor about it and she helped me realize that just because I said I was going to do something doesn’t mean I have to keep doing it, even if I change my mind. Somehow this hadn’t occurred to me before.

Huh. That could have saved me several difficult relationships. Oh well. Can’t do anything about that now.

Around this time, I also decided that, since I’d been given a gift of time and space to myself, I wanted to heal from past sexual abuse. You know, for good. Get it over with. But I didn’t know how to move forward.

And then I started writing about living in Barbados. It just happened one day. I was writing about my life, walking along on the treadmill in the basement, and the day we left Barbados started coming out my fingertips through the keyboard, and I realized I’d started a book. I’m a bit over half-way through now, having slowed down in recent weeks (mostly due to other workload and hanging out with the kids this summer).

So that’s happening. It’s often not a comfortable experience, but I know it’s what I need to do.

And now

A year later and where am I professionally? The President of a successful business? A brilliant entrepreneur making a name for herself as a thought leader in her chosen field? Not exactly.

Financially we’re amazingly and gratefully doing well. I’ve done a bit of this and that – taught a Fiber Arts class at the little kids’ school, made curtains for my mother-in-law, built a website or two, written some stuff for non-profits, taught mediumship development, became the Music Director at my spiritual center. Is this my new career? I don’t know.

I think, professionally, I am and always have been a writer. I define myself as such not to impose limits on myself, but to provide structure. Having the opportunity to do and be anything I wanted sent me into a bit of a flailing around tailspin for a while. So many choices…

I think and create and write. It’s what I do. On a deeper and bigger level, I’m an artist. It’s in the yarn I spin, the food I grow, the meals I cook, the sweaters and blankets and shopping bags and miscellany that I knit. I create, always.

So, yeah, it’s taken me a year to learn I am what I’ve always been. Go figure.

I wrote a song about it, and it goes a little something like this:

8 steps to procrastinating efficiently

As it turns out, being laid off is hard on your psyche. (So is weaning off your SSRI in the fall, but that’s another post.)

I enjoyed a summer of being in limbo where I couldn’t really get to work on my consulting business. I was on severance, so I couldn’t apply for the state’s Self Employment Assistance Program — as you have to be receiving unemployment to apply for it. I didn’t want to become self-employed before being officially unemployed, as then I wouldn’t quality for unemployment insurance payments. It was a lovely situation, in which I got some business things done and mostly celebrated the summer.

Then came fall. The kids went back to school. I had blocks of time to myself during the day again. I started getting unemployment, I applied for the self-employment program, I was approved. Time to forge ahead!

Yeah. About that.

I’ve done this running-my-own-business thing before and was successful. I know I can do (and am doing) it again. But I realized yesterday that something is different this time.

It’s different when it’s your choice

After Duncan was born, I chose to leave my job and strike out on my own. I had a baby at home who I got to spend my time with instead of days at the office. I did it largely for him and he was my motivation to keep at it and be successful. I wasn’t about to go back to full-time employment.

This time, I was laid off. I was made redundant, let-go, removed from the reduced budget. And, even though I know my work was valued, that it had nothing to do with me personally or was a reflection of my work, it’s still a blow. It’s just about impossible not to think, “But if I was really irreplaceable, they would have figured out how to keep me.” The fact that I haven’t actually been replaced doesn’t seem to assuage my injured heart.

So what can I do about it?

It’s true, I could go out and find another full-time job and have the pleasurable ego-boost of a fancy title and large salary. I know I’m worth it. But I’ve decided — for the kids and for me — that I don’t want to keep going in that grind. I decided that this is a blessing — to be released and given an opportunity to forge a new path.

But the daily forging of that path is proving to be something of a challenge.

Challenges are good, I tell myself. I thrive on challenge. It’s when I grow and become more of myself.

Challenges are also hard. They require new ways of thinking and doing.

Creating structure

The biggest challenge right now is simply focus. Using my time wisely and efficiently. I’ve decided I need structure to meet this challenge. I need to figure out my priorities for spending my time.

When working for someone else, that structure was built into the job. There were deadlines and expected accomplishments — quarterly newsletters, annual appeals to be mailed by a certain date, monthly e-news, events with pre-determined dates and deadlines. Now? Not so much.

I got back on Twitter yesterday – after making a checklist of the work activities I need to accomplish on a daily basis (writing being one of them), that apparently seemed like the most doable.

It’s part of my procrastination technique of productivity. It works very well, if you have enough things on your list.

How to procrastinate well

  1. Make a list, separated into sensible categories, of all the things you need/want to accomplish.
  2. Look at the list for a while.
  3. Choose the least objectionable item.
  4. Do it.
  5. Check it off the list.
  6. Feel accomplished.
  7. Go onto the next least objectionable item.
  8. As new things come up, add them to the list (I like to use a whiteboard).

Over time, there will be something you want to do less than the thing you’ve been procrastinating about the longest, so everything eventually gets done.

This technique has served me well through years of highly productive, high-demand work life. Go forth and make lists! Time to check something off mine.